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Corel PaintShop Pro X6 Ultimate review

Ben Pitt
23 Dec 2013
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
73
inc VAT

Some great features, but this minor update doesn't address our misgivings about performance and ease of use

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A new version of PaintShop Pro has become a regular yearly fixture, but after 23 years and 16 versions, it's getting increasingly hard to teach this old dog new tricks.

Among the new PaintShop Pro X6 features is a pair of selection tools that automatically trace the contours of objects in photos. It's a great concept but hardly revolutionary, as Photoshop Elements' Quick Selection Tool has had the same feature for years.

PaintShop Pro X6 Ultimate - Quick Selection

The Auto Selection tool is quick but unreliable

PaintShop Pro's Smart Selection Brush works in a similar way, with the user drawing over the area to be selected and the software doing its best to guess the edges of the selection. It includes a Feather control for softening the edges of the selection but, confusingly, this must be set before using the brush.

With the Auto Selection tool, the user simply drags a box around the subject to be selected. Unfortunately, it had a zero success rate in accurately identifying the subject we wanted to select. Sometimes it was close, but it was usually quicker to start again from scratch with another tool than to correct the multitude of errors.

PaintShop Pro is now a 64-bit application, which means it can use more memory. This should be useful when opening lots of images at once and when working with very large images. However, it doesn't support Adobe's PSB format for working with gigapixel images, and it can't create images wider or taller than 20,000 pixels. The JPEG format supports images up to 30,000 pixels wide or tall, but while we could open and edit existing JPEGs of that size (created with the Microsoft ICE panorama stitching software) PaintShop Pro insisted on resizing them to a maximum of 20,000 pixels when we opened the resize dialog box.

PaintShop Pro X6 Ultimate - Smart Selection

The Smart Selection Brush does a passable job of isolating shapes in a photo

We did various performance tests to compare PaintShop Pro X6 with X5, and struggled to find anything that revealed the benefit of X6's 64-bit architecture. However, X6 resized our 200-megapixel panorama in nine seconds while X5 did it in 15 seconds. Effects took the same amount of time to adjust and apply.

We saw bigger differences when comparing PaintShop Pro X6 with Photoshop Elements 12. PaintShop Pro X6 opened the 200-megapixel JPEG in three seconds as opposed to Photoshop Elements' six seconds. In other tests, including the application of effects, rotating layers and resizing images, Photoshop Elements was between two and 10 times faster.

We also found PaintShop Pro X6 Ultimate slower to use than Photoshop Elements because its interface isn't as elegant. When copying a selection and pasting to a new layer, for example, Photoshop Elements maintained the position of the pasted material, which was often exactly where we wanted it. PaintShop Pro pasted it in the middle of the canvas, which was almost never where we wanted it. PaintShop Pro has a Paste Into Selection command that we hoped would remedy the problem, but the selection pasted into the existing layer. We created an empty layer first and then used Paste Into Selection, which gave us the result we wanted. However, that’s a long-winded solution to an unnecessary problem.

PaintShop Pro X6 Ultimate - Chisel

Because the Drop-shadow and Chisel effects are applied destructively, applying them in the wrong order can lead to problems

There are numerous similar examples. Moving, rotating and resizing a selection only shows a bounding box rather than the image itself as adjustments are made, so careful adjustment can be a lengthy process of trial and error. 3D effects such as drop shadow and chisel are applied destructively, so can't be adjusted later, and layering them can cause problems. Corel mentions a cleaner user interface among the new features, but the changes we spotted are purely cosmetic and had no effect on the software’s behaviour.

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